Taylor hints loss could end Vogts' reign

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The Independent Football

From "Loser!" through "Time to go" to "This man is making us ill", the headlines made uneasy in-flight reading as Scotland headed for what could be Berti Vogts' last stand against Moldova here tomorrow. Players and hierarchy voiced support for the manager, although the most influential passenger was distinctly guarded.

From "Loser!" through "Time to go" to "This man is making us ill", the headlines made uneasy in-flight reading as Scotland headed for what could be Berti Vogts' last stand against Moldova here tomorrow. Players and hierarchy voiced support for the manager, although the most influential passenger was distinctly guarded.

David Taylor, the chief executive of the Scottish FA, did not defend Vogts by hailing his qualities. Instead he spoke of the German being under contract until 2006 and the store he sets by acting with integrity. At the same time he admitted that if Scotland failed to beat the Eastern European also-rans, the situation would be "bleak" and "desperate".

While such terms were intended to refer to Scotland's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup finals, they may equally apply to Vogts' position. With a victory over Moldova, Scotland would at least be "back in the pack", as Taylor put it. By implication, anything less would leave their chances of reaching Germany in a sorry state, intensifying the pressure on the SFA to act.

"The SFA honours contracts and we have an agreement with him for this tournament," Taylor said. "We're not going to just sway back and forth, but we'll see where results take us. If qualification becomes impossible, that's the end of the matter." Vogts and the SFA agreed some time ago that he would go if the Scots reached a point where a top-two finish was unfeasible.

The phrase "see where results take us" clearly leaves open the possibility for a parting by mutual consent, or some similar form of words, should Scotland again fall short. Taylor added: "Berti's here to do a job and if we get three points, we're back in the pack."

And if they lose or draw? "I'm not here to speculate, but it would be a great disappointment. Already we've got off to a pretty poor start and if we didn't win, I suspect the situation would be desperate in terms of qualification."

Taylor, a member of the 11-man SFA board that would decide Vogts' fate, was instrumental in appointing him to succeed Craig Brown. So when he urged the media to "wait and see" his caution was perhaps personal as well as professional. "Change for the sake of it is never a good policy," he said.

"The biggest concern I have is with the depth of playing resources. A couple of commentators have said that Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby rolled into one would find it difficult with what we have available."

Vogts' problems were compounded yesterday when he learned that he would be forced to sit in the stand rather than the dug-out. He was sent off at Hampden Park on Saturday after confronting the referee over a disallowed Scotland "goal" and will now serve a one-match ban from Fifa, the game's world governing body.

His assistant, Tommy Burns, called yesterday for a sense of proportion in the debate over the Norway defeat. "It's not a tragedy," the former Celtic manager said. "What happened to the Bigley family is a tragedy."

Barry Ferguson, the captain, was among the party that arrived in Europe's poorest nation, although he faces a test on his strained hamstring. Scott Severin, the Aberdeen midfielder, and the uncapped Lee McCulloch, of Wigan, also travelled after late call-ups.

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